By James Keller
In Fibsville, Danny Michel’s previous album, he wrote songs about aliens, far-fetched bar stories and the musicians of the Titanic. The music was stripped down and bare, making the entire disc seem like a giant unplugged show. With Michel’s latest, In the Belly of a Whale, he’s changed his style, his subjects and his company.
“This one’s a little more rock sounding,” begins the Ontario native. “It’s a little more pop and [Fibsville] was a little more artsy. This one’s more solid.”
The record, a blend of folk-rock tunes and low-tempo ballads, is getting quite a good start. Released last year, it’s already made a number of top 10 lists for 2001 both in local Toronto papers and bigger outlets like CBC radio. However, Michelis still a long way from stardom.
“I do really well out East and I do really well in Vancouver, but everything in between I don’t have yet,” says Michel. “I’m going town to town, finding ones that don’t know who I am and trying to introduce myself.”
Audiences get quite an intimate introduction. A large portion of his current tour puts Michel solo, stripped down again like he’s used to. Although this is how the songs began, this certainly isn’t how they ended up on the album.
“I’ve only ever done things by myself in my own way,” Michel says, pointing to the 14 guest musicians on the disc. “It’s neat. Instead of doing that, I offered ideas out to a bunch of great musicians I respected and let them come up with whatever they wanted to play.”
However, the finished product isn’t too far off Michel’s style. While there’s more instruments playing and more input, it’s still Michel inside.
“It’s just a little bit different,” he says. “The cake is the same. They just changed the icing a bit.”
One thing that is different is Michel’s choice of subject. Widely regarded for his poetic lyrics and down right bizarre topics, In the Belly of a Whale deals largely with relationships and more tangible topics.
“I recorded that in the midst of breaking up with somebody who I lived with for seven years, so I was kind of fucked up,” he recalls. “It’s weird writing a song about your personal experiences because you open yourself up to everybody and I don’t know if I should do that. I think I’ll keep my cards closer to my chest, as they say.”
Regardless of this departure, or whether or not the intimate sharing will disappear for the next record, Michel believes that lyrics are not as important in the industry as they should be.
“I put as much effort into the lyrics, if not more, than the music,” he says. “It’s the thing that’s missing in music today. There’s a lot of great music but everyone slops out lyrics that don’t really matter.
“It gives it another level of honesty-it’s more real.”